By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
When Mayor Carty Finkbeiner decided to throw a private party at the Erie Street Market for the State of the Union address earlier this week, he got to rent the place for free because he’s the mayor.
But, after criticism from area Republicans, the mayor has decided to pay for the party after all.
“If he wants to throw a private party at the market, that’s fine, but he should have to pay for it,” said Republican Councilman Rob Ludeman.
Mr. Finkbeiner chose the Erie Street Market because he wanted to have a place for friends and colleagues to gather to watch President Clinton’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
Carolyn Smithers, the Erie Street Market’s manager and a former interim press secretary for the mayor, said she received a call from a city employee in the mayor’s office asking to reserve the market for what she thought was a city function.
Ms. Smithers said the market’s policy is not to charge the city for official uses.
But this was not an official party.
The mayor’s invitation list – written on the mayor’s city stationery – reads more like a Democratic get-together than a public function. Guests were invited by the mayor’s office to the event. For example, the mayor invited city council’s 10 Democrats; he didn’t invite the two Republicans.
Four state legislators, all Demo crats, made the list, including one from as far away as Oak Harbor. But Toledo Republican State Rep. Sally Perz didn’t make the cut.
In the end, only three councilmen ended up attending the event.
Ms. Smithers said the cost for renting the market that night would have been $200. “It was my impression that it was a public or city event,” she said.
But mayoral spokesperson Mary Chris Skeldon said that Mr. Finkbeiner will pay the $200.
The ties between the city and the market are somewhat nebulous. The market’s building is owned by the city, and the market is supposed to be managed by an outside nonprofit corporation.
But while the city tries to organize a nonprofit to take it over, the mayor has named Ms. Smithers, a city employee, to run the market.
“Some people call it `Carty’s Clubhouse,”‘ Mr. Ludeman said of the market. “He’s promoted it, but he’s also used it to his benefit.”